“I have an idea,” she said. She shouted to the pilot: “Roll to the left.”
The pilot glanced back. “What?”
She made a rolling motion with her hand and shouted again. The pilot didn’t seem to comprehend. Paul did. “Great idea,” he said. “Can you show him?”
Gamay let go of the cart and ran up to the cockpit. She sat in the copilot’s seat once again and grabbed the wheel. “Like this.”
She turned the yoke to the left. The pilot followed suit and the DC-3 went over on its side.
In the rear, Paul had wrapped an arm around a cargo strap and put his back to the far side of the fuselage. When the plane rolled, he shoved the cart with his feet and watched it shoot out through the cargo door, carrying the heavy concrete block with it.
As the plane leveled off again, he moved cautiously to the door. Behind and below, the cart and the block were falling like two separate bombs—not tumbling or spinning, just dropping smoothly and silently through the air.
Gamay ran back and watched. “This is your best idea ever!” she shouted, giving him a kiss on the cheek. Paul smiled to himself, watching the culmination of his efforts approach.
Down below, Reza and the other technicians were also watching the block fall.
“Here it comes,” Reza said. “Everyone ready?”
Spread out across a few acres of land were four teams of men. Each team had drilled sensor probes into the ground. If all went well, the listening devices would pick up deep reverberated waves of sound after the concrete hit the ground. And, from that, they hoped to figure out what was beneath the sandstone.
“Green!” someone shouted.
“Green!” the rest of them confirmed.
Reza’s board was also green. His sensors were operating perfectly. He took one last look up, spotted the falling object and thought it appeared to be headed directly for him. Can’t be, he said to himself.
He waited exactly one second and then ran and dove across the sand.
The concrete block missed by fifty yards, but its impact boomed across the desert with a deep resonating thunder that Reza felt through his chest and limbs as much as he heard it with his ears. Exactly what they were hoping for.
He got up quickly, ran through a spreading cloud of dust and checked his computer. The green light continued to blink, the graph on the screen remained a blank.
“Come on, come on,” he pleaded. Finally, a bunch of squiggly lines began to run across the graph. More and more each second. Different frequencies from different depths.
“We have data,” he shouted. “Good, deep data.”
He took off his hat and threw it upward with exuberance as the DC-3 continued on by. Data was one thing. Now they would have to figure out what it meant.
Tariq Shakir stood in a chamber once reserved for the pharaohs and their priests. A hidden tomb, untouched by grave robbers, it was filled with possessions and treasures far surpassing those discovered with Tutankhamun. Art and hieroglyphics from the height of the First Dynasty lined the walls. A smaller copy of the Sphinx, covered in gold leaf and blue semiprecious stones, dominated one end of the huge room and a dozen sarcophaguses rested in its center. Inside each, the body of a pharaoh, thought to have been stolen and desecrated thousands of years ago. Mummified animals were placed around them to serve them in the afterlife and the skeleton of a wooden boat rested nearby.
The world at large knew nothing of this chamber, a fact Shakir had no intention of revealing. But he brought in experts from time to time to work on it and he saw no reason he and his people should not bask in the full restored glory of the ancients. After all, if he succeeded, a new dynasty of his own creation would rise over North Africa.
But, for now, he had a problem.
He left the burial chamber and walked to the control room. There, his trusted lieutenant, Hassan, was on his knees, being held at gunpoint, per Shakir’s order.
“Tariq? Why are you doing this?” Hassan asked. “What is this all about?”
Shakir took a step toward his friend and raised a finger. It was enough to quiet Hassan. “I’ll show you.”
With a remote control, he powered up a flat-screen monitor on the far wall. As an image began to appear, the sun-blistered face of candidate number four emerged.
“A report came in from Malta,” Shakir said. “Hagen and two members of your handpicked team were tasked with eliminating the Americans. One of them was killed, Hagen was captured and one escaped. I’m sure you understand why it is imperative that none of our operatives be captured.”